View Full Version : My first work shared on the board: Hopeless (3900 words) (some violence)

December 12th, 2013, 02:35 AM
A short story by Jesse Anderson

I don’t know who I am. I don’t know where I am. I don’t know how I got here. All I really know for sure is that I have to get out of here while I’m still alive. Time slips away in the dark. In the cold. I don’t know if I have been here days or weeks. When I woke up on the frigid stone floor of this black tomb, all I could remember was that I was in danger. All I knew was that my head was pounding and my body was malnourished and dehydrated. I cannot tell how long I slept before I awoke here, but if I had to judge my time awake, I would guess at least four days. It feels like weeks, months even, but I have had no food or water and I am still alive. For now.

Despite the cold and cramped isolation, despite the smell of my own waste that has built up for days, surrounding me, despite the pain coursing through my temples to the rest of my body, the worst part of this horrific experience has been the sound. Most of my time has been spent in cryptic silence as if I were drifting through space or buried deep in the ground. However, from time to time, I am offered a reprieve from the silence as a distant scream of pain and fear echoes from the distance. I could not tell how far or from which direction the screams came. I could only tell that these were not screams of joy. These people had met an unwanted end. I had to wonder - was I next? How far down the guest list was I? Sometimes I thought it would be better to go to the source of the screams. At least it would be away from this tomb. Maybe it is warmer there. Maybe there is light. Maybe I can get some answers there. Or maybe this is my fate. Maybe the person or persons that put me here are going to let me die in here. Death by darkness and uncertainty.

I racked my brain so many times to try to piece together where I could be and why. Sometimes I get a feeling like it’s on the tip of my tongue so to speak. Like the answers are just about to roll over the edge of my brain. But usually I just get an extreme headache behind the knot protruding from my scalp. Someone hit me hard. I don’t know why, other than to make sure I didn’t get up right away. I don’t know if it was that person’s intention to make me forget my own name but that is exactly what they had accomplished. I had very little memory left, but I did still have my intuition, and what that intuition was telling me was that wherever I was, I had been there before. Perhaps not in this barren hole in the wall, but I felt as if I was in familiar territory. What scared me was that I did not know if this was a comforting notion or not. What scared me even more than that was the only way to discover if my intuition was correct was to go to the origin of the screams.

I knew little about amnesia. I did not know if it was normal to forget everything. I was worried that even if I survived this trial, I may never know who I am again without being reminded. I may have had a family wondering where I was. If I ever made it back to them, I may not even know their faces or their names any more. I may never know of the good times we had together. That is of course, if they even existed at all. I didn’t know if I had a job or what it was if I did. If I made it out of here, would I be able to return or would I start my life over? How could I return to a life I no longer knew anything of? All I could do was hope. Hope that I could remember who I was and why I was encased in darkness. Hope that I could one day see light and hear sounds beyond occasional distant screams once more. Hope that everything would be okay in the end. Hope can be a blessing and a curse. Hope can lift you high, raise your very soul to the heavens. But the higher you are lifted, the farther you fall. I would day dream that one of those cold stone walls would just disappear and I would walk out onto the beach or into a hotel suite with an assortment of hot food waiting for me along with a nice, hot shower. I could spend an hour or more lost in the sweet solace of a peaceful daydream. But the higher I am lifted, the harder I fall. A sudden cold chill or shifting stream of my own urine running across the floor under me would bring me back into darkness. The lights would go out once more. I would fall hard onto the cold concrete and the devastating reality of my situation would become all too real once more.

One daydream in particular captivated me and took me away from this real-time nightmare. I couldn’t tell if it was a waking or sleeping dream. Everything in my mind seemed to blend together after a while of isolation. It was the most vivid dream of my life. In it, I left my cell and walked home. I had no memory of what my home looked like or where it was, but I found it in my mind. It was a lovely one-story house in a quiet suburb with a big blooming apple tree in the front yard. I walked along the driveway with the warm sun on my shoulders and made my way to the front door. I fumbled through my pocket for my keys but didn’t need them because just then, the most beautiful woman I had ever seen opened the door. I could tell right away this was my wife. Her red hair and green eyes along with the smile on her perfect face filled me with warmth and joy like nothing ever had before. All of the pain and fear in my head and in my heart left me in and instant. Nothing was left but love. Before I could say a word, she leaned forward and took me into her arms with a gentle hug. My head relaxed on her shoulder and her hair brushed against my face as I hugged her back with all of the passion in my soul. I hugged her long and hard until she pulled me into the house and closed the door. The house was warm and inviting. The furniture was the most comfortable looking I had ever gazed upon. There was a familiar smell floating in the air. Sugar cookies with just a hint of cinnamon. Nothing could have smelled more delicious. My mouth watered and I relaxed totally for the first time. I took a long look around the living room, trying to soak up the new and beautiful scenery, to absorb the grandness of it all. With little warning, from the side, my wife kissed my cheek and made her way through the doorway that I assumed led to the kitchen. A smile spread across my face as I watched her walking away.

I made my way to the fireplace -we had a fireplace!- and looked over the photos in the frames that sat there. I worked my way from left to right. First, my wife and I stood in front of the Statue of Liberty. We looked so young and happy. Then, at a baseball game, rooting for our team. The next one in line was of us on a roller coaster. My eyes were wide and her hair was blown back behind her as she screamed. Our wedding photo came after. She looked even more beautiful in her long white dress. The picture in the middle was the largest of all of them. It was of us holding… our son… on the day he was born. I took the photo in my hands and held it close to my eyes, beginning to weep. I did not know his name or when he was born. I knew nothing of this child except that he was the most wonderful sight these tired eyes had ever seen and that I loved him with all of my heart. The picture blurred before my teary eyes and I sat it back in it’s place on the mantel. After I had finished wiping the tears away, I continued down the line of pictures. Next was the three of us at Disney World. My son looked to be around seven years old. We were all wearing matching Mickey Mouse ears and huge smiles. Such a happy family. The last picture was my boy wearing a soccer outfit, resting a ball on one knee. This was taken maybe a year after the Disney adventure. I believed these were all placed in chronological order. My son was maybe nine years old or so and I didn’t know his name. I didn’t know of his existence until seeing this picture. I turned back towards the doorway my wife had gone through to find that she was on her way back into the room with me. Her presence alone was enough to dry my eyes and return my smile. She smiled back and opened her mouth to speak but no sound came out. That’s when I fell. I landed with a gut wrenching jolt back onto the floor of the torturous silent room.

The time after my wonderful dream seemed to crawl slower than it ever had before. The painful reality that my time away from here and in the comfort of a loving home was only a dream brought the pounding back into my head and the dread back into my heart, greater than I had felt since waking here by a thousand fold. I stood and pounded on the walls, screaming to the heavens to let me out. I could take no more. However, my shouts fell on deaf ears or perhaps no ears at all. I pounded on all four walls until I could feel the blood drip from my knuckles and from under my fingernails. Finally, I slumped to my knees and lay my head on the cool concrete, weeping desperately. Hope, combined with the power of human imagination is a powerful thing. Sometimes it can be good, but in this case, it was the most painful experience of my life. What hurt the most was that I had no way of knowing if this dream was just a dream or perhaps a disguised memory. Was that my house and my family? If I had a wife was she truly so beautiful? Was my maybe-nonexistent son a vibrant soccer player? Did sugar cookies ever really smell that good? I may never know.

How long had gone by since the dream? A day maybe? Two? After that dream, I trained myself to stop dreaming. If an image of a bright and sunny day drifted into my head, I would close the curtains. I couldn’t take that kind of blow again. I couldn’t deal with the fall, the pain, and the uncertainty. I did not want to find myself with a new family in a new life that would turn out to be an embarrassing lie. I kept myself focused on the darkness and in trying to put my thoughts and memories back together but I couldn’t. I searched my brain for answers but it wouldn’t give me any. Nothing but more questions. Nothing but more pain. Hope had officially been abandoned. That’s when the door opened. Not a door in my mind, but the door to my cage had been opened. A click followed by a loud scraping sound as the concrete and metal of the fourth wall of my prison slid away. The sound was the loudest I had heard in the entire recollection of my memory and rang deep into my aching head. The light that burst into the room was dim by the standards of most, but was so bright to my eyes that I had to protect them with my arm. A groan escaped my lips and I reached towards the light. I felt a tight grip on my shoulders and I was pulled suddenly to my feet. I let my arm fall and opened my eyes as much as I could without the glare pounding into my skull. I could see the two men that had pulled me up and that were now leading me out of my prison. I glanced back into it as they began leading me down a stone hallway towards the room of the screams.

The three of us walked down the long, dim corridor without a word. I was finally able to find my voice and asked where we were. I was answered with a sharp blow to the back of the head that made me see stars. I said no more. We made our way to a large steel door, half rusted over. The man to my left opened the door with a creak and shoved me inside. The room was lit the same as the corridor, with a single dim light bulb. Light was a precious sight but still uncomfortable to my heavily dilated pupils. The only other thing in the room was a large metal chair in the center, turned towards me ominously. I was led to the chair and shoved down. Both men took a length of rope from their belts and began to secure my wrists to the arms of the chair. This is when I found my voice completely. I screamed and wailed and begged their forgiveness.

“Please!” I begged. “I can’t remember anything. I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t even know who I am!” With this, the two men looked at each other in surprise, but continued fastening my hands down.

“This has to be a misunderstanding. I… I’ll pay you. Just let me go, or at very least tell me why I’m here,” I wailed, then began sobbing.

“That’s for the boss to decide,” one of them grumbled as the men made their way out of the room and one closed the heavy door behind them. I was left alone again, with nothing but my tormenting thoughts to keep me company. I struggled with all of my power against the ropes, but I was so week. I had been without food or water for a long time. I could hardly budge my bound wrists at all. I couldn’t help but see the pretty face of my dreams and long to be with her, whoever she was. I sat for a long time, filling my lap with tears, waiting for whatever horrible thing was going to come through that door. I’m not sure if I found myself fortunate or not when I discovered I wouldn’t have to wait long.

The groan of the door sounded again and I looked up into the face of a man I felt as if I should have remembered well. Behind him were the same two goons that had led me here. One closed the door and both stood in front of it, arms crossed. The familiar man was an older gentleman with silver hair, was dressed to impress, and smoking a cigarette. As he lifted the cigarette from his lips, he smiled a big, toothy smile and extended a hand toward me as he spoke with delight. “Jack!” He said, drawing out the ‘a’ for a long time, as if he were surprised to see me. “It’s been a long time. What, like a week now?” He chuckled to himself and asked, “how was your stay at storage compartment inn?” He chuckled again and took another drag of his cigarette to give me a moment to reply. I chose not to.

The silver fox suddenly sounded concerned. “What’s the matter, Jack? Cat got your tongue? Talk to me.” Again, he waited, and again, I said nothing. Sounding more impatient, he stepped up closer and hunched down, watching me at eye level as he spoke again, soft and slow. “I know you can talk, Jack. You’ve always been good at that. Let’s hear that smooth tongue again, huh?” With that, he puffed his cigarette, then slowly crushed it out against the back of my hand, twisting it back and forth. I cringed and let out a deep growling moan of pain. He dropped the butt on the floor and stood back up, speaking quickly. “Here’s the deal, Jack,” he thumbs over his shoulder to one of his goons. “Joey over here tells me you can’t remember anything. Says you don’t even know your own name. Now I know Joey hit you hard, but he didn’t hit you that hard. I was there. You’re lying, plain and simple.” The man turned back to me looking angry. The sly smile from earlier was gone completely and the seriousness in his eyes matched that in his voice.

“You may be able to fool Joey and Tommy. Hell, you may have even been able to fool yourself. Maybe some repressed memories that you’re afraid to tap into? But you’re not fooling me, Jack. You’re not fooling me a bit.” With that, my captor swung the back of his hand into the side of my head as hard as he could, making a sick thump that jerked my head to the side and left my vision blurred.

“You know exactly where you are, and more importantly, you know why!” His voice raised along with his arrogance. “So tell me Jack, why did you do it?

I shook my head and tried to collect my thoughts, to form my words. I tried to grasp how to explain to this man that I couldn’t answer his question. I didn’t think for long before the back of his hand made contact with the other side of my head.

“I don’t know!” I screamed out before I realized I meant to. “I don’t know what I did or why I did it. I don’t know who the hell you are! I don’t even know who the hell I am! Whatever you think I did, you know more about it than I do.” A whimper escaped my lips and I spoke again, softly. “Whatever you’re going to do, you’re going to do it no matter what I say. Just do it.”

The man looked away from me and began to pace back and forth in front of me. His head was held high and he rubbed his chin, thinking deeply. After a long uncomfortable minute, he turned back and began to speak. “You know…” he cut off and swung his foot wildly, catching me with the point of his black Oxford below my chin. My head snapped back and I tasted blood immediately. Before I had time to respond, the toe of his shoe this time collided with my stomach, lurching me forward. The back of his hand bounced off one side of my head and the back of his other hand bounced off the other side. The man, now red in the face, full of rage, took a step back and shouted, spit flying out of his mouth. “If there’s one thing I hate, Jack, it’s a damn liar!” His fists clenched and he began beating me with them mercilessly. After a few blows to the face and the stomach, the pain dulled. More than I felt the blows, I could feel my eyes swell and my stomach rumble. I could feel the blood seep from my nose and drop into my lap. Finally he stopped. Through my eyes that were nearly swollen shut, I could see the man barking at his guards but I couldn’t hear a sound over the buzzing in my head. One of the doormen handed my attacker a handkerchief, which he used to wipe the blood from his knuckles. I sat there for a long moment, wheezing, finding it difficult to get air into my lungs. A hard, painful cough escaped my chest along with a mouthful of blood.

I sat, dazed, for a long while until the man, still with streaks of my blood on his hands, grabbed my face and shook me back into focus. He spoke loudly and slowly and I could now hear him again. “Are you ready to tell me what I want to hear, Jack? Or do I have to have Tommy go get me some toys?” I looked him in the face the best that I could and took a long breath, trying to draw air into what may have been a collapsed lung. Another deep cough followed some blood that sprayed onto the man’s expensive suit jacket. He payed it no attention, looking me in the eyes with fierce impatience. I just watched him right back.

“Okay,” he said with a nod. “Well, if you would have played my game, you still wouldn’t have saved yourself, but you could have saved your family, Jack.” He turned to Joey with orders. “Joey, let’s pay Jack’s family a visit. I believe little Ricky’s next soccer game is this Friday night. Let’s go give him some encouragement.” Joey’s eyes grew full of excitement and he timidly asked his boss, “Jack’s wife is the purdy redhead, innit’ she? Can I uh…”

“Yes,” the boss answered with disgust. “You guys do whatever you want to do. Just finish the job when you’re done.”

“Wait!” I took in another deep breath. “Okay, Tony, you win. You’re right, I remember. What happened… what happened to that little boy was an accident. The police… the shootout… it wasn’t supposed to go down like that, Tony. I didn’t say anything to anyone, I swear, but after what happened, they were bound to put it all together. They were bound to come looking for you. I’m sorry, Tony. In our line of work, these things happen. I didn’t mean to…”

“Didn’t mean to what?” he snapped. “Didn’t mean to blow this operation? Didn’t mean to put me and my family in jeopardy? These things just happen? Well, Jack…” Tony pulled a gun from his belt, hidden behind his jacket and pointed it between my swollen eyes. “In this line of work, when those things happen, so do these.

“Please, Tony,” I sobbed. “Please… I understand. I do. Just don’t hurt Gloria or Ricky. Please Tony, not my little boy…”

After a long pause came the last words I would ever hear. “Jack, you lost your cool on the job last week, and it got you killed. But when you lost your hope in the hole and convinced yourself that you could lie to me, that’s what killed your family.”

Without a moment to respond, I returned to the hopelessness of the dark.

February 1st, 2014, 03:32 AM
This had a good pace and I loved the ending. I think it could be tightened up more so the narrator’s plight has a bigger impact and rams home the contrasts between the daydreams and the reality (takes a while to get back to the action once we're in the daydream sequence where he meets his wife).

I’d consider adding some clues so the reader picks up on the fact the narrator is faking the amnesia (I assume he’s faking the amnesia as that’s what the boss implies at the end).
Also try rewriting some of the cliché phrases (tip of my tongue, make me see stars, raise your soul to the heavens, black tomb etc.) and use more specific concrete examples in first paragraph (instead of malnourished, dehydrated try ‘my body ached with hunger, dry tongue like rough sandpaper. Bad examples but you get the idea…). And swap ‘begged’ and ‘wailed’ for some more supporting action to show the narrator’s mood better.

There was good character description in ‘The groan of the door…’ paragraph and I loved the menace coming through in the ‘Okay he said with a nod…’ paragraph.

A couple of grammar/narrative errors crept in:

His fists clenched and he began beating me - cut the mercilessly as it breaks the mood.
‘Maybe it is warmer there.’ ‘Change to ‘Maybe it’s warmer there’.

All up a smooth read. Hope this helps and good luck with revision!

February 9th, 2014, 04:30 AM
I listened to this the other day and maybe it would help you flesh out this story: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/399/contents-unknown?act=3

March 14th, 2014, 04:13 PM
I had a problem with the 4 days of no water and could not make it past the second paragraph. Just didn't give a crap about the character. If I am not mistaken, dehydration becomes overwhelmingly disorienting around three days in. No water for four days would render him soon to be dead. Headaches start the end of the first day or start of the second. Play up the disorientation, pain. Try going a full day with no liquid, no food. It sucks a whole lot worse than your story indicates and he has been without for more than that.

W M Gardner
June 3rd, 2014, 05:50 AM
I little to repetitive. I would suggest taking another look at some places where you could changed the sentence structure. Your hook is good, just see if you can change it up a little.